Maryland’s November 2020 COVID-19 Update: A Primer on Two Recent Directives
For several months, health officials have cautioned the public that the rate of positive cases of COVID-19 would spike as temperatures turned colder. In recent days, it has become clear that cases in Maryland have risen exponentially. Maryland’s government has responded to the rising caseload by issuing two recent directives designed to combat and slow the resurgence of the virus.
On November 10, 2020, Governor Larry Hogan warned that increasing travel flow into and out of the state may have a role to play in the recent COVID-19 spike. The same day, the Governor’s Office issued Governor’s Order No. 20-11-10-01 and the Maryland Department of Health issued an updated COVID-19 advisory. The COVID-19 advisory provides guidance on tackling the new wave of COVID-19 infections. The advisory “strongly recommends” travel restrictions, testing, and self-quarantines, but does not yet require them.
While taking the increasing positive rates of COVID-19 very seriously, the Maryland Department of Health is specifically recommending that:
“All Marylanders should refrain from non-essential travel outside of Maryland due to the recent increase in COVID-19 infections in other states.”
“Any Marylander returning from out-of-state or any out-of-state traveler should either get tested for COVID-19 promptly upon arrival” to the state or 72 hours prior to travel.
“Out-of-state visitors” are encouraged to get tested “within 72 hours prior to arrival and to cancel travel if they receive a positive result.” In addition, “[v]isitors waiting for their test results should stay at home between the time of their test and their arrival in Maryland or to self-quarantine upon arrival.”
“Any Marylander who travels to a state with a COVID-19 testing positivity rate above 10% or with a case rate over 20 per 100,000 in the past 7 days should get tested and self-quarantine at home until the test result is received.” (Emphasis in original.) Delaware, the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia “are exempt from this recommendation.” The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s data tracker includes current state-by-state COVID-19 testing information as well as information for the U.S. territories.
“Employee commuters who leave/enter the state on a daily basis and have work-based COVID-19 screening procedures do not need to quarantine. Employees who occasionally travel to or from Maryland for work-related purposes should, to the extent reasonably practicable, comply with the quarantine and testing recommendations above.”
The travel advisory implies that individuals should make reasonable efforts to comply, but again, does not explicitly mandate compliance.
Restrictions on Businesses and Gatherings
Governor’s Order No. 20-11-10-01 and the COVID-19 advisory also revise several mandates that were issued in Governor’s Order No. 20-10-16-02:
The updated COVID-19 advisory recommends limiting public and private indoor gatherings to no more than 25 people.
The number of persons permitted in foodservice establishments has been reduced from 75 percent of maximum occupancy to 50 percent of maximum occupancy.
Maryland continues to enforce a face-covering mandate. With some exceptions, all persons in Maryland over the age of five years old must wear face coverings when they are using public transportation, indoors at a public venue or outdoors at any location where they are unable to consistently maintain a six-foot distance from other individuals, obtaining healthcare services, engaged in any work in an area where they might interact closely with others, or engaged in work where food is being packaged and prepared.
Local Orders and Health Directives
In addition to measures being taken on a state level, several counties in Maryland have imposed additional restrictions.
Prince Georges County
County order limits gatherings to groups of 25 people outdoors and 10 people indoors. The order limits indoor dining and some retail establishments to 25 percent of capacity.
Executive Order No. 122-20 AM limits gatherings to no more than 25 individuals. According to the order, the total capacity of foodservice establishments may not exceed 25 percent of the facility’s maximum occupancy.
Anne Arundel County
On November 12, 2020, county ordinances limited social gatherings to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors, and suspended youth athletics on November 16, 2020. Maximum capacity for indoor dining operations in bars and restaurants will also be reduced from 50 percent to 25 percent beginning on Friday, November 20, 2020.